Fans of Friends all know how the show ended. The gang returned the keys to the purple apartment and closed the door with the yellow frame one last time. Rachel got off the plane, Monica and Chandler had their babies, Phoebe and Mike were happily married, and Joey was going to get a spinoff series.
Their lives were changing and they were largely going their separate ways, but there was a reassuring sense of calm about the whole thing as they walked down to Central Perk together.
But one fan suggests that the series could have ended on a much, much darker note. The theory, written by strnks on Twitter, gives an alternate ending that would pretty much turn the long-running sitcom into a sad twist.
Since they put it into much better words than I ever could, here's how they propose Friends should have ended:
I know what you're thinking...
And then a bit of...
But before you let this fan theory completely ruin Friends for you, let's just remember that this isn't the first time we've heard a theory like this. While strnks' version might be well crafted and thoughtfully put together - seriously, reading that was gut-wrenching - the whole "it never happened" theory is far from novel.
So, here are a few other similar theories that we can all be entertained by without letting it destroy everything we love and smash our hearts into a million pieces:
Pokémon - Ash is in a coma
In this popular Pokémon theory posted to CreepyPasta, Ash Ketchum was put into a coma in the first episode of Pokémon after being struck by Pikachu's shock. From then on out everything in the show was created by Ash's vegetative dream state.
This helps explain why Ash never ages, why every Pokémon Center attendant is Nurse Joy and every officer is Officer Jenny. Both could have been people Ash knew from in Pallet Town so he imagines them in every town he visits to help him maintain a sense of stability and security.
Brock represents Ash's pubescent urges in dream form, and Misty acts as a force attempting to help him grow up. When he refuses Misty's urges, she eventually begins to fade away.
Lastly, Pikachu is what remains of Ash's youth and humanity, which is why he'll stop at nothing to protect it. Instead of coming to terms with being in a coma and having to wake up, he takes the route of escapism to allow himself to fulfill his fantasy of becoming a Pokémon master.
Although it's unlikely that Nintendo would ever go this dark, this is actually a pretty interesting theory. If you're at all intrigued, I suggest reading the long CreepyPasta about it.
The Simpsons - Homer is in a coma
Redditor Hardtopickaname posits Homer has been in a coma since the episode 'So It’s Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show' aired in 1993. It all starts six months prior where, in the episode Homer the Heretic, Homer meets God who loosely says he will die in six months.
Six months later, the 'So It’s Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show' aired which features a scene where Bart's prank puts Homer in a coma.
Here's what Hardtopickaname proposes happened:
I propose that Homer didn’t actually wake up from his coma. He is still in a vegetative state and every single Simpsons episode afterwards is in Homer’s imagination.
This is why the characters don’t age. Homer remembers Bart, Lisa, and Maggie as 10, 8, and 1 year old, so they will always appear that way in his dreams. He is subconsciously aware of time passing, so his mind will often “update” his memories so that the year they occurred matches up with the age he thinks he is (eg. That 90’s Show contradicting other flashback episodes).
While the characters’ ages don’t change, the events happening to the Simpsons definitely did.
While this is another really interesting fan theory, it was shut down by the showrunner. The Simpsons executive producer, Al Jean, talked to TMZ and debunked the theory stating:
It would mean back in 1993 we would presume the show was going on for years and years more and right before we left, threw this hidden monkey wrench in for all our successors. I’m afraid it goes with the ‘Dead Bart’ episode in the intriguing but false file.
Eh, either way Hardtopickaname gets major points for trying.
The Walking Dead - Rick is in a coma
Another coma theory places The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes in the vegetative state. It's been written time and time again by a number of people, but apparently it's a pretty popular idea that Rick never actually woke up from his coma in the first episode.
My favorite was written by moywar700 a few years ago to the ComicVine boards outlining how the series might end:
Imagine this, Rick Grimes never woke up from the coma and he’s in deep sleep. He’s imagining all this, he dreamt of the zombies and none of it really happen. He only dreamed of zombies because he loved reading stories about them.
In the last issue of walking dead, everybody [from] Rick’s team dies from the zombies and they’re trying to get him next. He screams really loud and than we have a scene with Lori in the hospital talking with the doctor. Lori asks,”Is he ever gonna wake up from the coma?”
“Probably not, he may stay like this for the rest of his life. For some reason, he keeps on [whispering under his] breath, what could he mean? How’s your son Ms. Grimes?”
“He’s doing fine. He recently graduated High School. He’s in college now.”
“Maybe it’s time to pull the plug Ms.Grimes?”
“sigh…Let’s give him more time.”
Luckily for fans who hated this idea, TWD creator Robert Kirkman stepped in and nixed the whole theory.
He then went on to joke...
Personally, I'm glad this one was debunked. I couldn't imagine watching every episode of this show and have it ending with Rick waking up to Lori and Carl at his bedside.
Harry Potter - Harry went mad under the stairs
I'm sure many of us have heard this one. In this theory Harry essentially went mad and had built a fantasy world around him as a means of coping with his abusive family, all from the comfort of his tiny cupboard under the stairs. All the characters, all the magic, was just in Harry's head. Since it's been around for years, I can't actually find the source of this fan theory.
In a 2012 interview for Harry Potter Wizard's Collection, J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves came together and briefly discussed this theory.
Kloves: ...the point was that he seemed slightly mad when I wrote the first draft. When Hagrid appeared, you thought he was out of his imagination for a minute, like he had summoned this guy.
Rowling: I think that’s a fabulous point, and that speaks so perfectly to the truth to the books because I had it suggested that to me, more than once, that Harry actually did go mad in the cupboard, and that everything that happened subsequently was some sort of fantasy life he developed to save himself.
Kloves: No, and that’s where it came from. It came from the book. When you read the book, you make it pretty clear that he’s an abused boy.
Rowling: Totally. Of course he is.
While this clip clearly doesn't confirm the theory, it shows that it does have a place in the books. If the screenwriter for the Harry Potter movies thinks it makes sense, this idea must have been picked up by lots of readers.
Of course, if you really like any of these darker fan theories, go right ahead and believe them! Why not? Art and entertainment is all subjective, and adding your own head-canon to a fictional storyline is totally acceptable.
At the very least, let's all be glad that Friends didn't end the way strnks suggested, because my heart simply couldn't take it!